NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday, possibly of a drug overdose, New York City police said.
The Australian-born Ledger, 28, who was nominated for an Oscar two years ago for “Brokeback Mountain,” was found dead by a housekeeper at his apartment in the trendy SoHo neighborhood, police spokesman Paul Browne said.
“We are investigating the possibility of an overdose,” Browne said.
The housekeeper found Ledger at 3:26 p.m. (2026 GMT), naked and unresponsive, and tried to wake him for his appointment to have a massage, Browne said.
“There were pills within the vicinity of the bed,” Browne said, adding that he believed they were sleeping pills.
No cause of death was determined.
Ledger was nominated for an Academy Award as best lead actor for his role as a gay cowboy in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” but the Oscar went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role as Truman Capote. However, Ledger did win a New York Film Critics Circle award for the role.
The handsome star last year broke up with his longtime companion, actress Michelle Williams, who played his wife in “Brokeback” and was the real-life mother of the actor’s 2-year-old daughter, Matilda.
Ledger had already been tabloid and paparazzi fodder for his relationship with actress Naomi Watts, though that relation had ended by the time filming on “Brokeback” began.
He then became involved with Williams and the two had Matilda by the time of the film’s release.
The couple tried to keep a low profile by living in Brooklyn but still appeared often in the gossip pages. He moved to Manhattan after the breakup.
He also once dated model Christina Cauchi and actresses Heather Graham and Lisa Zane.
Ledger’s other film credits included “The Patriot,” “Monster’s Ball” and the title role in “Casanova.”
He stars in the currently playing “I’m Not There,” one of several actors playing a role representing Bob Dylan, and was due to appear this year as The Joker in the next Batman film, “The Dark Knight.”
Ledger was already well-known in his native Australia when he was introduced to American audiences as the young star of the television series “Roar” in 1997 and quickly became one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading men.
He appeared in the festival-screened “Two Hands” in 1998 and the teen comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” in 1999, which led to greater exposure as Mel Gibson’s son in 2000’s “The Patriot,” a Revolutionary War saga.
But he received his greatest acclaim in director Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” as Ennis Del Mar, a ranch hand who carries on a homosexual affair with a fellow cowboy played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The character continues to live a closeted life with a wife, played by Williams, and children.
The film won numerous awards but was upset by “Crash” for the Oscar for best picture.
After the phenomenal success of “Brokeback Mountain,” it was announced that Ledger would appear as The Joker opposite Christian Bale’s Batman in “The Dark Knight,” which completed filming and was due to be released later this year.
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Mohammad Zargham